Six-year-old suffers chemical burn after henna tattoo

On family vacation in Eilat, boy going into first grade gets temporary tattoo that caused second degree burn.

August 14, 2011 01:23
2 minute read.
[illustrative photo]

Kid child with temporary henna tattoo 311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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A six-and-a-half-year-old boy who asked to get a henna tattoo inscribed on his shoulder ended up very ill at Carmel Medical Center in Haifa.

Prof. Yaron Har-Shai of Carmel said on Thursday that henna tattoos are very dangerous, especially on children, and should not be attempted.

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The boy, Eden Ben-Simon, said on Thursday: “I am about to go into first grade and wanted to enjoy a vacation in Eilat, but this tattoo ruined everything.”

The Ben-Simon family live in the North but had their vacation in the South with a number of other families they know. After going to the hotel pool, they walked to the central pedestrian mall. Eden, a sports fan, stopped at a tattoo parlor that offered Maccabi Haifa tattoos.

His mother, Einav, asked the owner if it was dangerous for a child to be tattooed with henna, but he said there was no problem.

“They all do it,” he said. The tattoo artist rubbed henna into the boy’s shoulder with a form to create the sports logo. It produced a small black image.

“Already in the evening, when we returned to the hotel, the skin stared to release pus and burn like fire,” said Avi, Eden’s father. The next morning, they took their son to Yoseftal Hospital in town.

He was treated with medications and special cream, and two days later, they returned home to the north, but the pain and rash on his shoulder and back got worse.

“We understood that it was not normal and rushed to Carmel’s plastic surgery department to get help,” Avi said.

Har-Shai said that the henna tattoo caused a second-degree burn.

“We here and nobody else knows what tattoo artists put on the skin of children. There was a combination of a serious allergy to henna and a chemical burn. It is definitely dangerous to the skin and body of such a young child.”

His skin reacted by developing ugly boils over his body from his back to his chest and abdomen.

Eden’s mother warned other parents that tattoos are not child’s play. There is a law barring children into their midteens from getting any tattoo without parental permission, but the parents agreed after hearing from the owner of the tattoo parlor that “everybody does it.”

Einav said that the Health Ministry and other supervisory bodies must look into the situation. There is no supervision of dozens of places in Eilat, as well as other localities, that perform henna tattoos, she said.

“Somebody must wake up until more people are hurt.”

Har-Shai said that usually, black material containing the chemical PPD – which speeds up the absorption of color into the epidermis – darkens the basic henna color. PPD is known to cause allergic reactions that develop into chronic infections and scars. Public awareness of the risk is minimal, he added.

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